Are You Robbing Your Child?
I noticed it first at Kennywood, a local amusement park near my home. A young boy (I would guess 6- or 7-years-old) stood in line with his father while waiting for a ride. The boy was desperately trying to gain his father’s attention. He hung on his father’s arm, pulled his father’s shirt, called out “Dad,” bumped into his father’s leg…all to no avail. His father gave him no attention. Instead, his father focused on a cell phone. I made this observation several years ago. Since that time, I have watched the same scenario in different settings time and time again. Now a small study has pointed to the potentially detrimental effects of parental cell phone use around young children (read Plugged-in Parenting: How Parental Smartphone Use May Affect Kids). This study suggests that cell phones command our attention, even rob the attention we would otherwise give our children. Obviously, this will have detrimental effects on parents’ relationships with their children. Not surprisingly, this study suggests that the more parents use their cell phones around their young children:
- The fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions the parents have with their children.
- The more attention seeking their children becomes.
- Parent-child conflicts increase.
- Negative interactions increase…interactions like snapping at children.
- The greater internal tension experienced by the parent.
What can you do to prevent the cell phone from robbing your attention from your children? Here are two tips to help.
- Limit time on the cell phone for the whole family. Set up “unplugged times” for your family. For instance, establish meal times, bed times, fun times, and other family times as “phone-free, unplugged times.” Spend these family times talking about the day, sharing ideas and memories, laughing together, and having fun. You’ll be surprised at the positive effect this can have on your marriage (Read A 30-Day Marriage Challenge) and other family relationships.
- Schedule times to check the news, texts, and your emails…times that do not interfere with family times. Take time to truly consider what notifications are absolutely necessary—those needed for true emergencies. News bulletins, Facebook notifications, and texts, for example, are not necessary on a moment by moment basis. Postpone accessing this type of information for a non-family time. Disconnect from the constant barrage of information to spend with your family. Turn off unnecessary notifications.
These are two simple tips you can follow to keep the cell phone from robbing your children of the attention they need from you! Disconnect from the cell phone, give your children the attention they need…and enjoy the way they grow!